manji or nazi?

Back in Dec of 1999 Nintendo removed a Pokemon trading card from the US market because it contained a ‘manji’…a Japanese symbol of good luck which resembles a backwards Nazi swastika. Historically, the Japanese symbol, with Buddhist origins, predates WWII by centuries. But, despite the over-reaction by some — there is a difference between the swastikas. The arms point in different directions.

Recently it appears Coca Cola – in Hong Kong – placed a swastika on a “Robocon” toy robot. However, did they make a mistake. Is it a manji?

There are actually two different manjis a Ura Manji and an Omote Manji. The Ura Manji is the same as a Nazi swastika, but it is rotated 45 degrees.

The pattern on the robot is clearly intended to be a Ura Manji, but it isn’t exactly. Neither is it a Nazi swastika though…

Pokemon Trading card
banned in US in Dec 1999
Coca Cola / Robocon robt under attack
omote manji
ura manji
Nazi swastika

0 thoughts on “manji or nazi?

  1. Hagrinas

    Swastikas have been part of Buddhist culture for a long time, and this goes way beyond Japan. Swastikas can be found in holy sites in China and Vietnam and Singapore and Malaysia among other places.

    The Nazis, incidentally, also used other orientations for the swastika. There was a well distributed film of Nazi Germany after its fall that showed a wrecking ball to a swastika that appeared as a mirrored manji.

    While we should all recognize that this ancient symbol predates and had nothing to do with naziism for a long time, we must also recognize that the connection is now there and many Americans and Europeans are aware of no other. Since there is no religious requirement for Buddhists to display a swastika, it all comes down to an issue of respect. If people who see it are likely to interpret it one way, one must respect those people and not do it.

    With any other cultural idea, we tend to recognize this principle. If a person claimed that a raised middle finger means nothing where he comes from, he should still recognize that he should not do it here. Likewise, we would not go into a Buddhist temple in Asia wearing shoes just because we see nothing wrong with it in our culture.

    WWII was not a small event that went unnoticed anywhere. People throughout the world should be aware of what that symbol means to us and show us respect.

  2. John

    That argument could apply to the Pokemon card, since Nintendo had to remove it from the US market. (It was kept on the card in the Japanese market, which of course meant it was available through Ebay, etc)

    But the toy robot was being marketed in Hong Kong. There’s absolutely no reason Coca Cola should have to cater to Western sensibilities in an Eastern market. We can’t force Easterners to stop using Manjis. They’re a part of their culture, and to impose our culture on them would be fundamentally wrong.

    And why do we have to force them to show us respect? Why can’t we learn to respect them? We’re not the center of the universe.

  3. John

    Actually, I was wrong above, and in my original post. The Pokemon trading card issue had nothing to do with marketing in the US. Since the card was produced in Japan prior to its release in the US, the Japanese versions were imported to the US. Nintendo never intended to market it to the US with the manji. They were aware of the issue. Due to the uproar after the Japanese cards were imported to the US, Nintendo stopped making them at all.

    So the US in both cases was enforcing our cultural viewpoint on the culture of others, insisting they respect us, rather than the other way around. Because no one in the world matters except for us.

  4. Pingback: TransylvanianDutch » Blog Archive » Manji Schmanji

  5. Pye

    I agree John. It would be better we taught our children about other cultures and the history of their symbols when they cross over with our cultures. Of course WWII was a big event but we have to understand that this symbol, for other cultures, would have been as common as the letter A, the nuclear disarmament symbol (peace sign) or a love heart. Would we have banned the letter A if Adolf used that in his symbol instead?

    I find it funny when Americans come to my country and give me the two finger salute thinking it’s the peace sign: showing the knuckles in the United Kingdom/Ireland is the same as “flipping the bird” (middle finger). Peace V sign is the other way around but some Americans don’t know the difference. =D


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